So back around 1994 a friend at high school introduced me to a game of super-humans and space orks. That's right, Warhammer 40000 2nd Edition. The game blew my little mind. It was chock full of dice, templates, miniatures (though these are nothing compared to the things Games Workshop makes these days) and books. The books were not just rules but some of the most amazing graphic artwork and background material that described a universe where Humanity was under siege from a variety of aliens, daemons and renegades. I was hooked. However my parents were not so keen. GW was expensive even 15 years ago. So I had to make do with just using what my mate had.
So when another friend picked up Epic Space Marine, a game set in the same universe but using substantially smaller miniatures so even larger armies could be depicted in battle, and he then got hold of Epic Titan Legions, and well I just bought the Eldar (space elves) forces off him and I had the start of my own army. This over time allowed for my parents to change their view of the games as they realized the social and educational value of them (we as a group of young boys started to become better artists, writers, readers and I was already a mythology and science geek). So finally I started to get the odd bits for my Eldar bought for me.
Then another game was bought by the 40k player, Necromunda, and I guess that is where my interest in roleplay games begins. Again we just played with what he got in the box but then I finally got a small gang of minatures, the Spyrer hunters. Let us just say and entire summer's worth of gaming was sucked up by this game, and then some. About a half dozen of us each weeekend would play about 4 hours of games. Gangs won booty and lost members and suffered terrible injuries as the campaign progressed, and even stories built up as we began to introduce plots to the games.
Then about another year later I had a part time job and so I was finally able to save up for something I had been wanting for a while, my own Warhammer 40k army. Tyranids (think Aliens in space and then some). This army would be a long standing feature of my gaming, and they took some getting used to until I finaly figured out how to play using this weird force of monsters.
So what next. Well one random weekend when I was about 14 or so was when I got given, GIVEN!!!, out of the blue a black box with a red dragon on it. Classic Dungeons and Dragons 18th Ed.
This box had a few minis, dice and a basic map for the beginners game. Do you know what I did? I didn't run that game and just went straight for making up my own campaign. Hell I even look back and realize that even then as a group of players (the GW gaming group) we were roleplaying and not just rolling dice. Fortunately about the same time Arcane magazine came out and I grabbed a few copies and learnt a fucking epic ton about being a Games Master. I still have these copies and really think they are the best examples of independent gaming magazines ever, EVER, created. I wish I had a link to something about these magazines. So off the back of reading these my own skills as a GM grew. That same Xmas saw me get Star Wars Second Edition Revised by WEG and well that was the end of me playing DnD as the game just oozed drama, action and information on how to run Star Wars like a movie and not just a game of dice rolls.
Other games picked up/played over this time were Talisman, Space Hulk, Warhammer (I had a chaos army), Gorkamorka (gang warfare Mad Max style with Orks!!! One of the funniest games to see you own mob get killed), Warmaster, Mordheim, Epic 40000, Battlefleet Gothic, Bloodbowl, Warhammer Quest. Basically the entire GW catalogue and all offered their own gaming experience and sense of drama, scale and roleplay. It was also during this time I played a hell of a lot of Magic the Gathering (Rath cycle onwards) but found it was far to much like a arms race as we spent money on getting more and better cards.
But then, with the internet as a new tool for me to explore gaming, I discovered White Wolf and in 1999 got hold of Vampire: the Masquerade 2nd Edition Revised. Now here was a game that obviously has shaped the person I am today. It was to me the pinnacle of roleplaying and also allowed for me indulge that seed of goth in my heart (I was already listening to rock music/alternative music of some form). My Mum looked at the book when I got it and just went 'That's pretty' and left me to it. So began a new 2 years of gaming that revolved around the use of soundtracks, lots of viewing of Buffy, Angel and The Crow, and really what were the most stupid over the top plots ever. But to hell with it. It was horror, and it was fun. It was then during my last year of 6th form that I also got hold of Mage: the Ascension, and blew my mind. We were in a post Fight Club/Matrix era and Mage was everything that a group of now pre-university alternative types needed. Again epic plots were run and so the first ideas behind my Manchester setting were planted.
University meant a complete lack of players for some time for roleplay and so I returned to wargaming and it was during my first year I met my first girlfriend who also got into the hobby of wargaming. Then come the second year of uni I was now working at the Games Workshop store in Altrincham. Along with other staff members at the Manchester store a roleplay gaming group was formed and an epic Mage game was played, the first game I had ever played in and not run! Finally I got to indulge in my love of the Virtual Adepts. This game ran for a long time, and over the course of my time working for GW I played other games, even Lord of the Rings (though I never bought an army for it), and Inquisitor was quite an interesting game as it had a heavy roleplay element but focused on just the action scenes. It even required a GM. It was also during my last two years working for GW that I discovered the games War Machine and Confrontation. Two games with, I have to say, some of the best minatures on the market.
Then came the big split from my girlfriend. She too was working for GW by now and lets just say life got too complicated. Cutting all ties I found some gaming solace in something I had left on the shelf for a while since I got to uni. Vampire: the Requiem, and started to run a campaign for it which I had been working on for some time. I had also picked up over my time at uni Werewolf: the Forsaken, Mage: the Ascension and Exalted. I ran a little of each, but Vampire was the only chronicle to reach a full gone conclusion, and has been one of the most satisfying games to ever run (the exception being the rerun of the same chronicle currently). I also had the joy of running a bit of Etherscope, and even had one of the makers play in the game and got very good feedback on the game (and this has led to a future chance at getting something published).
During my second year of uni I joined a new roleplay group, a group very anti-New World of Darkness, and was once more able to play again rather than just run games. So I had the joy of playing an amazing Vampire: the Dark Ages game, a Technocracy game for Mage: the Ascension, a bit of Orpheus, a little of Nephilim, a bit of Freak Legion for Werewolf: the Apocalypse, and also I got to run the first sci fi game that the group or myself had run for a while, Fading Suns. This chronicle was once more amazing to run and I was ever improving on running episodic epic chronicles.
Since then, I completed my PhD, got a job, got married, and now have a new rp group that has so far has been playing in my Vampire: the Requiem game that is the rerun of the one I ran 4 years ago, and also a bit of Unhallowed Metropolis. Plans are afoot for a one shot of Werewolf: the Forsaken, maybe a bit of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition, perhaps Fading Suns, perhaps some Geist: the Sin-Eaters, perhaps even Promethean. Still sat waiting for gaming is Cthulhu Tech and I may pick up some other things at some point. My NWoD book collection is now about 30 books, all the core books excluding Hunter. My wife has got into gaming with a lot of enthusiasm and has taken to it well as she is more story driven than dice rolling which helps a lot. And of course now I am a co-host for Darker Days Radio.